By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
Sometimes, it’s simply the deal you pass up. Eric Hosmer was one of the top free agents of this 2018 hot stove season, and was seeking an eight year deal worth at least $20M annually. Several teams, including the Red Sox were linked to the free agent former Kansas City Royals first baseman earlier in the fall when free agency began. Much like every top free agent, Hosmer’s market took a long time to materialize.
Boston desperately needed to upgrade it’s roster with a power hitter, but President Dave Dombrowski seemed to recognize that a long term deal for Hosmer was one which would not provide strong value. On December 18, 2017, the Red Sox single handedly dealt his market a huge blow when they inked Mitch Moreland to a two year deal worth $13M. Consequentially, Hosmer’s long drawn out saga dragged on for exactly two months until the clock struck midnight on February 18, 2018.
By opting for Moreland, the Red Sox saved a total of $131M compared to the the Padres. Even though Hosmer had a career year in 2017, he ONLY smacked measly three additional home runs, and thirteen more RBI’s than did the returning Boston first baseman. As an extra consequence, Petco Park in San Diego is much more pitcher friendly than it is for the players stepping into the batter’s box.
Another financial advantage Boston has over San Diego, is that Moreland’s deal is much more tradable due to it’s affordability. Should Sam Travis or Michael Chavis start tearing the cover off the ball down in Pawtucket, they could easily move Moreland if they had to. Not to mention it would be justifiable enough to simply make him a bench player similarly to Jonny Gomes in 2013. The flamboyant former left fielder occupied left field on a two year, $10M deal.
Despite his no trade clause, very few teams will want any part of Hosmer’s deal. The Mets signed Jay Bruce for three years, $39M. The Phillies got a shorter deal with Carlos Santana a three years, $60M. Teams across MLB are getting wiser, and are simply pursuing players who represent the best value. Certainly $144M is astronomical for a player who plays a position in which power hitters are a dime a dozen. For instance, Chris Carter (at first base) lead the National League in home runs (41) with the Brewer’s in 2016 for a meager $2.5M. Only a handful of a months later, he no longer had a job in Major League Baseball.
The San Diego Padres as an organization have a recent record for extremely poor decision making. Coming into the 2015 season, newly hired G.M. A.J. Preller decimated most of his team’s farm system. Most of which was traded for players such as Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Craig Kimbrel, and Wil Myers among some smaller moves. They also signed James Shields to a lucrative multi year deal. Only months later, when they were several games out of playoff contention, the Padres began a fire sale in which they shipped out most players of those same recently acquired.
In September of 2016, Preller received a 30 day suspension from MLB for failing to disclose the medical records of Drew Pomeranz to the Red Sox. The lanky left hander was traded to Boston for their top pitching prospect, Anderson Espinoza. Pomeranz had been dealing with elbow inflammation throughout 2016, which required stem cell injections after the season concluded. The Padres GM was also involved in a similarly shady deal with the Miami Marlins, who were seeking some starting pitching since they only 1.5 games away from the second wildcard. Colin Rea was one of the starting pitchers included in the deal to Miami, but like Pomeranz experiencing lingering elbow issues, and only pitched a single game for the Marlins. MLB allowed the Marlins to rescind part of the deal , which ultimately returned Rea back to the Padres since it was immediately determined he needed season ending Tommy John Surgery. Despite the red flags, Preller was not punished for this incident specifically. Many thought the 30 day suspension following the Pomeranz trade was too lenient due to an obvious pattern of shady business practices. Nearly a year later, Atlanta Braves G.M., John Coppolella received a lifetime ban by MLB this past November after it was discovered that he egregiously manipulated the international free agent market. In hindsight, the severe punishment should have started with Preller.
All shadyness aside, the Red Sox at the end of the day will not be the team suffering from “buyer’s remorse” in regards to how they navigated the first base market. Also with the addition of Nunez, they are set up very well throughout their infield.